Predicting the Next NHL Players to Sign Big-Money Contract Extensions

Lyle Richardson@@SpectorsHockeyFeatured ColumnistSeptember 17, 2016

Predicting the Next NHL Players to Sign Big-Money Contract Extensions

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    Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

    In the upcoming NHL season, several potential restricted or unrestricted free agents could sign lucrative contract extensions with their current teams. Among them are stars such as Boston Bruins left wing Brad Marchand and San Jose Sharks defenseman Brent Burns. 

    Marchand's current contract pays him an annual average salary of $4.5 million, while Burns' annual average value is $5.76 million. Given their respective performances and values to their teams, both are in line for substantial raises. 

    The following slideshow predicts the next NHL players to sign contract extensions worth $5 million per season or more. We'll examine their current deals and why they're due for significant pay increases and predict what they'll get. 

    As always, you can express your opinion in the comments section below. 

Alex Galchenyuk, Montreal Canadiens

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    Paul Vernon/Associated Press

    Contract status

    Montreal Canadiens center Alex Galchenyuk is in the second season of a two-year, $5.6 million contract. The annual average cap hit is $2.8 million, but Galchenyuk will earn an actual salary this season of $3.1 million. The 22-year-old is due to become a restricted free agent next July with arbitration rights. 

              

    Key factors

    Over his four NHL seasons, Galchenyuk has made consistent improvement. Last season was his first as the Canadiens' top-line center. He was among the few bright spots in an otherwise miserable 2015-16 campaign for the Habs, reaching career highs in goals (30) and points (56) and matching his best in assists (26). 

    Thanks to Galchenyuk's solid performance, he tied Max Pacioretty for the team lead in goals in 2015-16. He also finished second in points and shots (201) and tied for second in game-winning goals (four) and fourth in power-play points (16). Given his youth and steady development, the best may be yet to come from Galchenyuk.

            

    Prediction

    Another season of 30 goals and flirting with 60 points could see Galchenyuk pursue a five-year contract worth up to $5.5 million per season. That deal would take him up to age 28, when he'll still be in his playing prime. He could then be in line for a richer deal from the Canadiens or another club via unrestricted free agency.  

Ondrej Palat, Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    Contract status

    Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Ondrej Palat is entering the final season of a three-year, $10 million contract. The 25-year-old's annual average salary is $3.33 million, but his actual salary for 2016-17 is $4 million. He's slated to become a restricted free agent next July with arbitration rights. 

            

    Key factors

    With center Tyler Johnson and right wing Nikita Kucherov, Palat is part of the Lightning's "Triplets Line." With his playmaking skills and two-way abilities, he's a significant reason why Tampa is a Stanley Cup contender in 2016-17. 

    In 2014-15, Palat tallied a career-best 63 points in 75 games. Limited last season by injuries to 40 points in 62 games, he still finished tied for fourth on the Lightning in points and tied for third in game-winning goals with four. Palat also netted 10 points in 17 playoff games and tied for second among Lightning scorers with two game-winners. 

    How much Palat receives from the Lightning could be determined by how much Kucherov, currently a restricted free agent, receives on his contract extension. 

           

    Prediction

    If Kucherov gets a seven-year contract worth $6 million per season, Palat could seek a similar deal. His performance this season will also be a factor in his contract talks with Lightning management. 

Tyler Johnson, Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    Contract status

    Tampa Bay Lightning center Tyler Johnson is in the final season of a three-year, $10 million contract. While the annual average value is $3.33 million, he's earning $4 million in actual salary in 2016-17. The 26-year-old will become a restricted free agent in July with arbitration rights. 

             

    Key factors

    Along with Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov, Johnson is part of the Lightning's "Triplets Line." He's become an important part of the Lightning's rise to Stanley Cup contention. Despite his small stature (5'8", 185 lbs), he's proved to be a reliable playmaking center and clutch performer. 

    In 2014-15, Johnson reached a career-best 72 points in 77 games. Injuries limited him to 38 points in 69 games last season, but he still finished second among Lightning scorers in game-winning goals (seven). During the 2016 playoffs, he led the Bolts in game-winners (three) while finishing second in scoring with 17 points. 

    Like Palat, Johnson's next contract could be affected by what Kucherov (currently a free agent) receives from the Lightning. 

            

    Prediction

    If Kucherov gets a seven-year deal worth $6 million annually,  Johnson could seek a similar contract. A healthy 2016-17 and a return to his 70-plus-point form will bolster his case. 

Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins

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    Winslow Townson/Associated Press

    Contract status

    Boston Bruins left wing Brad Marchand is in the final season of a four-year, $18 million contract. The annual average value is $4.5 million, but his actual salary for 2016-17 is $5 million. He is eligible next July for unrestricted free agency.

            

    Key factors

    Marchand, 28, has spent his entire seven-year NHL career with the Bruins. In that time, he's earned a reputation as a reliable, pesky scoring winger. Last season, he reached career highs in goals (37) and points (61). He led the Bruins in goals and finished fourth in points. 

    In the playoffs, Marchand is a proven performer. During the Bruins' 2011 Stanley Cup championship run, he tallied 11 goals and 19 points in 25 games. He also netted 13 points in 22 games during their march to the 2013 Stanley Cup Final.

    Marchand is among the Bruins' top forwards and team leaders. He's also one of the last links to their championship team. They cannot afford to let him go, but it could prove expensive to re-sign him.

            

    Prediction

    Marchand's next contract with the Bruins will be a six- or seven-year deal with an annual salary-cap hit of $6 million. If the Bruins won't pay that much, another club will via unrestricted free agency in July. 

Tyler Toffoli, Los Angeles Kings

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    Rocky W. Widner/NHL/Getty Images

    Contract status

    Los Angeles Kings forward Tyler Toffoli is entering the second season of a two-year, $6.5 million contract. The annual salary-cap hit is $3.25 million, though in actual salary, he'll earn $3.9 million in 2016-17. He is slated to become a restricted free agent next July and holds arbitration rights. 

            

    Key factors

    Over the past three seasons, Toffoli has quickly become an important member of the Kings. In 2015-16, the 24-year-old reached career highs in goals (31), assists (27) and points (58) in 82 games. He led the Kings in goals, finished third in points and tied for fourth in game-winning goals with four. 

    A versatile forward, Toffoli is a center but now skates at right wing. He also plays a responsible defensive game and is a threat to score in short-handed situations. Given Toffoli's steady development, he will remain among the Kings' best forwards for the foreseeable future.

             

    Prediction

    Toffoli could seek a seven- or eight-year deal worth an annual average value of $6 million. The cap-strapped Kings will have to find sufficient room to re-sign this talented young player. 

Ryan Johansen, Nashville Predators

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Contract status

    Nashville Predators center Ryan Johansen is entering the final season of his three-year, $12 million contract. The annual salary-cap hit is $4 million, but he'll be paid $6 million in actual salary for 2016-17. The 24-year-old is due to become a restricted free agent next July with arbitration rights. 

             

    Key factors

    Acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets midway through last season, Johansen is the Predators' first-line center. He netted 60 points in 2015-16, 34 of those after joining the Predators. He's reached or exceeded 60 points in each of the last three seasons. 

    This season will be Johansen's first full NHL campaign skating alongside talented left wing Filip Forsberg. Considering how well they meshed last season, the duo could be the Predators' leading scorers for the next several years. 

    On June 27, the Predators re-signed Forsberg to a six-year, $36 million contract. Johansen could seek a deal of equal or greater value. Because his actual salary for this season is $6 million, it'll cost the Predators that much to qualify his rights. 

              

    Prediction

    As Forsberg is the Predators' highest-paid forward, they'll likely offer Johansen a comparable contract. He could push for eight years at $7 million per season. They should settle for seven years at $6.5 million annually.

Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington Capitals

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Contract status

    Washington Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov is in the final season of a two-year, $6 million contract. The annual average value is $3 million, but his actual salary is $3.4 million in 2016-17. He is due to become a restricted free agent next July with arbitration rights. 

             

    Key factors

    In just his second full NHL campaign, Kuznetsov enjoyed a breakout performance. Playing alongside superstar Alex Ovechkin, the 24-year-old scored 20 goals and collected 57 assists for 77 points in 82 games. He led the Capitals in assists and points, finished third in shots (193) and tied for fourth in game-winning goals with four. 

    A slick playmaker who can also skate on either wing, Kuznetsov has the talent to regularly reach (or exceed) the 70-point plateau. He's become a valuable part of the Capitals offense.  As a result, he'll be in line for a substantial raise on his next contract.

               

    Prediction

    Kuznetsov could seek a salary comparable to Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom's $6.7 million annual cap hit. Because Backstrom signed his contract under the previous collective bargaining agreement, Kuznetsov won't get a 10-year deal. He could instead seek the current league maximum of eight years. 

Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Contract status

    San Jose Sharks defenseman Brent Burns is in the final season of a five-year, $28.8 million contract. The annual average value and actual salary are $5.76 million. The 31-year-old is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next July. 

              

    Key factors

    Burns achieved career highs last season in goals (27), assists (48) and points (75), finishing third among Sharks scorers. He also finished second among playoff scorers (24 points), playing a significant role in the Sharks' march to the 2016 Stanley Cup Final. He was a finalist for the James Norris Memorial Trophy and was named to the NHL's Second All-Star Team.

    As the Sharks' top puck-moving defenseman, the 6'5", 230-pound Burns is a vital part of their offense. Since 2013-14, his production has steadily improved. He's in his early 30s but should remain a significant contributor for the next several seasons. 

    The Sharks came close to winning their first Stanley Cup last year. With their championship window open, they will do all they can to keep Burns in the fold. 

            

    Prediction

    Given Burns' age, the Sharks will likely offer him a five-year deal. His performance last season should ensure he receives an annual average salary of $7 million. That will put him in the same pay range as top defensemen such as the Ottawa Senators' Erik Karlsson ($6.5 million) and Drew Doughty ($7 million) of the Los Angeles Kings.

              

    Player stats via NHL.com. Salary info via Cap Friendly